Triathlon Across the USA: State #29–Nebraska

Triathlon Across the USA: State #29–Nebraska

Omaha, Nebraska; August 13-14, 2016 – Levi Carter Park, USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships

Planning My Nebraska Triathlon

I had planned to make Nebraska one of the later states in the ‘Triathlon Across the USA’ adventure. Our son Ben, daughter-in-law Lindsey, and two granddaughters lived in Omaha. Omaha and its surrounding cities offer plenty of triathlons from which to choose. We had plenty of time.

However, when Lindsey told me that Omaha would host the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships, I made this my Nebraska triathlon.

This triathlon was an opportunity to race with some of the best senior (and younger) triathletes in the USA while completing a triathlon in the 29th state of the ‘Triathlon Across the USA’ adventure.

Age Group National Championships

The USA Triathlon (USAT) Age Group National Championships (AGNC) races took place over two days. The Olympic distance race with over 2,170 participants was on Saturday. This was a competitive race since all participants had qualified to compete in this race through their top 10% place in races earlier in the year.

On the second day, 1,250 triathletes gathered for the sprint distance race. With this number of participants, my Nebraska triathlon had the greatest number of participants for any of my triathlons. Also, this race included the greatest number of participants in my age group (60-64) and largest swim wave start (160).

triathlon participants
Number of participants by age group in the Sprint (upper) and Olympic (lower) distances of the Age Group National Championships.

The number of participants in the Sprint and Olympic distances by age group pictured in the graphs above shows the importance of seniors to the two events.

Only slightly less than half (42%) of the participants in the Sprint distance were Senior Triathletes (age 50 and over). Even for the longer, Olympic distance, more than a third (36%) of the participants represented the Senior Triathletes community.

Sprint Distance Race Day – August 14, 2016

Before the start of the race, several participants and spectators gathered for a pre-race Bible reading (John 4:23-24), short message, and prayer led by a representative of Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). This was another first.

Weather at the start of my swim wave (7:44am) was 69ºF with 85% relative humidity. There was no wind. By the end of the race, the temperature was still comfortable at 74ºF with 74% humidity and no wind.

So, while it was cool, the humidity was higher than typical in my home state of Minnesota. This made it feel warmer.

Fellowship Christian Athletes
Before the start of the first swim wave at the 2016 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championship Sprint Triathlon, a representative of the FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) gathered racers for scripture reading, a short message, and prayer.

My Experience at the Nebraska Triathlon

Distances for the individual legs of the Sprint triathlon were:

  • Swim: 750 m (0.47 mile)
  • Bike: 20 km (12.4 mile)
  • Run: 5 km (3.1 mile)

While walking to the swim start, I noticed a guy asking a person doing body marking to write something on his chest. I paid little attention to the details. However, upon lining up for the swim start, I could read the marking.  

The guy, Russ Jones (age 61), told me he had raced in what has been recorded as the first triathlon in San Diego in 1974.  The writing on his chest displayed a memory of the $1 entry fee for this race.

Jones also announced he was racing ‘retro’. Today, this meant racing in shorts but no shirt. For the bike leg, he used his Raleigh bike with two gear shift levers on the down post.

Swim

The swim was in Carter Lake which had a water temperature of 82ºF. This water temperature was well above the maximum of 78ºF for which USAT rules allow use of a wetsuit.

All triathletes in my swim wave – for this race, all males 60 years and older – started together in the water. The plan was for all swimmers to start from a position of having one hand on a floating dock. However, with the large number of participants in this age group (160), the group extended well past the end of the dock.

Despite the number of swimmers, the swim remained surprisingly calm. Those who have done an open water swim in a triathlon have most likely experienced the chaos of other swimmers bumping into or trying to swim over top them.

There was none of this, except the occasional finger tip touch of my foot by a swimmer drafting from me.

Bike

The bike course was essentially flat, having only a couple of small, short hills. This made for a fast course. The race organizers did a great job of providing comfortable surfaces on which to run between the transition area and points of bike mount/dismount.

Sure enough, less than one mile into the bike course, Russ Jones and his beautiful, baby blue 1970s Raleigh passed me (and my carbon fiber, tri-bike). After I passed Russ once, he passed me again. I never saw him again until we met on the run course.

There was only one issue, that of a bumpy area within transition, that caused a few participants to trip. I was aware of these having walked the path from transition to bike mount/dismount on Saturday. Remember to checkout the paths in transition before the race.

Run

The run was flat with plenty of encouragement from a musician who serenaded us with guitar and song, a cheerleading squad, probably from a local high school or college – they all looked so young – at the turnaround area, and many other volunteers along the course.

Time to Cool Down and Relax

With race over, it was time to cool down. 

While resting my legs in an ice bath after the race, I met a Senior Triathlete from Michigan who was in his second year of triathlon. He shared how triathlon, specifically his triathlon training, had helped him to lose 50 pounds after he had stopped running following an Achilles tendon issue a few years earlier.

I also saw Jim Chapman, who I had met a few years earlier at the Rocky Gap Triathlon in Maryland. By the way, Jim qualified for the ITU World Championships in his age group (75-79). So did Ralph Ward, who I had met at the Rage Triathlon in Boulder City, Nevada earlier in the year.

Firsts From the Nebraska Triathlon

  • First with Garmin 920XT.
  • This was the first time we stayed with one of our children for a triathlon.
  • My first USAT National Championship triathlon.
  • First triathlon with a pre-race prayer.

Senior Triathletes Again Show ‘Age Is Only A Number’

This event was another opportunity to meet great people, broaden my experience competing in triathlon, and share time with family. The Nebraska triathlon showed the strength and size of the Senior Triathletes community.

It also showed how fit people can be, even well into their senior years. More than one 70+ year old passed me on the bike and run. This was probably true in the swim as well, though I could not see their age marking on their calf during the swim.

Thinking about this experience on the drive back home, I remembered that on my 50th birthday, I had run three miles on the track at the local health club.  Why?  To prove to myself that I was not ‘old’.

Today, this seems crazy since at age 63, I regularly run much further.

Then, not so long ago, I had set the goal of completing a triathlon in each state by age 70. Why? At age 58, age 70, seemed reasonable since I was certain my triathlon career would be over at that age.

Now, I’m not so sure. There are plenty of guys and gals competing strong well into their 70s and 80s. Because of them, I am continuously adjusting my perception and definition of ‘old age’.

Congratulations to all the Senior Triathletes who took part. I hope to see you again soon. Thanks for inspiring and challenging me.

Also, congratulations to USA Triathlon for a well organized and well run triathlon weekend.

Now, It’s Your Turn

Have you competed in a national age group championship triathlon? Which one(s)? What was your experience?

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